Nkosi Nkululeko


In this season, the children play
with heads in the black fields. They'd pass them
down until they reach the river, shimmering gold
in summer's eve. Wars leave nations in shambles,
but my god, the way the sun rubs clean light
upon the dead like rain jeweled on leaves,
it makes this land more pleasant to die under.
O fathers, mothers whom are owed new children,
o silent night sung under pine trees, I sing
the Blues for you. Our country's flag dances
high on metal, our heads rested upon the pole.
I know you see how far the fire goes this time.
From sea to shining sea, our dead parade on lead.
Give mercy to the living. Sometimes, I read
books on gods and demons, emperors and republics.
Man-made gods are most dangerous here.
God-made demons are worthy most of prayer.
I know angels that would not father us, for we
are a school of darkness in which kings are stolen
from kings, a people in need of new colonies.
We bleed. They say that means you are human,
but we own so much of it, the blood. It runs rapid
like horses galloping on the plains, thousands
of beasts making freedom a body-parable.
On the news, our teeth grow feathers. It's common,
the way our dark flesh becomes mythologized.
At night, we lay wasted like birds, reddened
on the high road that you'd take back home.
We'd look like Pegasus had the animal been
from Harlem, from the south-side of anywhere.
Occasionally, we'd read about ourselves
in the morning papers like myths once read
to children before they closed their eyes to sleep.